The gang reads

Chapter 2

Chap. One

A/N: I do not own the Outsiders

"Okay. Chapter one." Darry began. "Wait, before I begin, who needs to go to the restroom?"

Steve got up and almost ran to the bathroom, while the rest of the gang tried hard to muffle their laughter. When Steve returned, Darry picked up the book and resumed to read.

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. I was wishing I looked like Paul Newman- he looks tough and I don't—"

Snorts were heard from every member of the gang.

"Apparently, our little brother is vainer than we thought," Soda said. Darry nodded and began to read again.

"- But I guess my own looks aren't so bad. I have light-brown, almost red hair and greenish gray eyes. I wish they were more gray than green because I hate most guys that have green eyes,"

"Why is that, I mean why does it matter to the kid?" Steve asked.

"I really don't know, now let the man read!" Two- Bit, who was enjoying the book a lot, was quickly growing tired of the many interruptions.

"But I have to be content with what I have. My hair is longer than a lot of boys wear theirs, squared off in back and long at the front and sides, but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut. Besides, I look better with long hair."

More snorts were heard, as they all remembered what Pony looked like after his weeklong disappearance. (A/N: I thought he looked hot!)

"I had a long walk home and no company, but I usually lone it anyway, for no reason except I like to watch movies undisturbed so I can get into them and live them with the actors. When I see a movie with someone it's kind of uncomfortable, like having someone read your book over your shoulder. I'm different that way. I mean, my second oldest brother Soda, who is sixteen going on seventeen, never cracks open a book at all, and my oldest brother Darrel, who we call Darry, works too long and hard to be interested in a story or drawing a picture, so I'm not like them."

"At last, I get to find out what goes through that head of his," Darry almost shouted with glee. But then the last sentence sunk in. "Hey, what does he mean by 'works too long and hard to be interested in a story or drawing a picture'?"

"Exactly that, Dar." Soda responded. "Relax, will ya?"

"And nobody in our gang digs movies and books the way I do. For a while there, I thought I was the only person in the world that did. So I loned it. Soda tries to understand, at least, which is more that Darry does."

"Hey, it's not that I don't try to understand, it's just I can't understand what goes through the kids head"

"But then, Soda is different from anybody; he understands everything, almost. Like he's never hollering at me all the time the way Darry is, or treating me as if I was six instead of fourteen. I love Soda more than I've ever loved anyone, even Mom and Dad. He's always happy go lucky and grinning, while Darry's hard and firm and rarely ever grins at all. But then, Darry's gone through a lot in his twenty years, grown up too fast. Sodapop'll never grow up at all. I don't know which ways the best. I'll find out one of these days."

"Do I holler at him a lot?"

"Yeah, Dar. You do."

Soda, ignoring the exchange going on between his older brother and Two-Bit, said "I wonder if he still feels that way, you know, about me."

"Soda, you know Pony will always love you."

"Anyway, I went on walking home, thinking about the movie, and then suddenly wishing I had some company. Greasers can't walk alone too much or they'll get jumped, or someone will come by and scream "Greaser!" at them, which doesn't make you feel too hot, if you know what I mean. We get jumped by the Socs. I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the abbreviation for the Socials, the jet set, the West-side rich kids. It's like the term "greaser", which is used to class all us boys on the East Side. We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. I reckon we're wilder, too. Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks, and get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next. Greasers are almost like hoods; we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while. I don't mean I do things like that. Darry would kill me if I got into trouble with the police."

"How does this kid know these things? I didn't even know about the part about the editorials!" Darry said with a hint of surprise. Soda kept looking at the door to the room that he shared with Pony, wondering when he would cool off.

"Since Mom and Dad were killed in an auto wreck, the three of us get to stay together only as long as we behave. So Soda and I stay out of trouble as much as we can and we're careful not to get caught when we can't. I only mean that most greasers do things like that, just like we wear our hair long and dress in blue jeans and T-shirts, or leave our shirttails out and wear leather jackets and tennis shoes or boots. I'm not saying that either Socs or greasers are better; that's just the way things are. I could have waited to go to the movies until Darry or Sodapop got off work. They would have gone with me, or driven me there, or walked along, although Soda just can't sit still long enough to enjoy a movie, and they bore Darry to death. Darry thinks his life is enough without inspecting other people's."

"Doesn't change the fact that I'd have gone with him" both Curtis brothers said at the exact same time. They looked at each other in shock.

"Spooky."

"Or I could have gotten one of the gang to come along, one of the four boys Darry and Soda and I have grown up with and consider family. We're almost as close as brothers; when you grow up in a tight-knit neighborhood like ours you get to know each other real well. If I had thought about it, I could have called Darry and he would have come by on his way home and picked me up, or Two-Bit Mathews—one of our gang—would have come to get me in his car if I had asked him, but sometimes I just don't use my head. It drives my brother Darry nuts when I do stuff like that, 'cause I'm supposed to be smart, I make good grades and have a high IQ and everything, but I don't use my head. Besides I like walking."

"He likes walking?" Two-Bit said, incredulously.

"At least he acknowledges that he doesn't use his head." Darry said shaking his head. He was beginning to regret his decision of reading Pony's paper.

"I about decided I didn't like it so much, though, when I spotted that red Corvair trailing me. I was almost two blocks from home then, so I started walking a little faster. I had never been jumped, but I had seen Johnny after four Socs got hold of him, and it wasn't pretty. Johnny was scared of his own shadow after that. Johnny was sixteen then."

At once the gang lowered their heads in remembrance of a young boy who was able to escape the life of a greaser, just not the way they all thought he would.

"I knew it wasn't any use though—the fast walking I mean—even before the Corvair pulled up beside me and five Socs got out. I got pretty scared—I'm kind of small for fourteen even though I have a good build, and those guys were bigger than me. I automatically hitched my thumbs in my jeans and slouched, wondering if I could get away if I mad a break for it."

"He should have, he's plenty fast enough." Soda said, raising the spirits in the room. Despite what they had told Pony about getting over the death of Johnny and Dally, they all still felt the cruel sting whenever their names were mentioned.

"I remembered Johnny—his face all cut up and bruised, and I remembered how he had cried when we found him, half-conscious, in the corner lot. Johnny had it awful rough at home—it took a lot to make him cry. I was sweating something fierce, although I was cold. I could feel my palms getting clammy and the perspiration running down my back. I get like that when I'm real scared. I glanced around for a pop bottle or a stick or something—Steve Randle, Soda's best buddy, had once held off four guys with a busted pop bottle—but there was nothing."

"He bought that story!" Steve said, bursting out in laughter.

"So the kid does get scared, interesting." Two-Bit said, as if in thought. Well, that lasted until Steve hit him over the head with his hand in his laughing fit. The reading had to take a pause as Darry had to separate the two 'adults' from the small wrestling match they were having.

"So I stood there like a bump on a log while they surrounded me. I don't use my head. They walked around slowly, silently, smiling. "Hey, grease," one said in an over-friendly voice. "We're gonna do you a favor, greaser. We're gonna cut all that long greasy hair off." He had on a madras shirt. I can still see it. One of them laughed, and cussed me out in a low voice."

"Tell me their names, damn it!" Soda swore, and Darry nodded. Just because they had whooped their asses in that rumble didn't change the fact that they were threatening a Curtis. Bad move.

I couldn't think of anything to say. There just isn't a whole lot you can say while waiting to get mugged, so I kept my mouth shut. "Need a haircut, greaser?" the medium-sized blond pulled a knife out of his back pocket and flipped the blade out. I finally thought of something to say. "No."

"Need to remember that one. Kid's smart ass tendencies are great to listen to." Steve said, unaware that he'd inadvertently complemented Pony.

"I was backing up, away from that knife. Of course I backed right into one of them. They had me down in a second. They had my arms and legs pinned down and one of them was sitting on my chest with his knees on my elbows, and if you think that don't hurt, you're crazy. I could smell English Leather shaving lotion and stale tobacco, and I wondered foolishly if I would suffocate before they did anything. I was scared so bad I was wishing I would."

"Names, I need their names." Soda said, hopping mad. It was one thing to jump a greaser; it was another to make one so scared that they wanted to die. Also, it was his little brother, so he would make those Socs rue the day they decided to jump Pony.

"I fought to get loose, and almost did for a second; then they tightened up on me and the one on my chest slugged me a couple of times. So I lay still, swearing at them between gasps. A blade was held against my through. "How'd you like that haircut to begin just below the chin?""

"After we're through here, why don't we go to Tim's? He knows all Socs names by heart." Darry said, gritting his teeth. He loved Pony, just as much as Soda. So to see him in an vulnerable situation like that made him very pissed. Those Socs would rue the day they messed with his brother.

"It occurred to me then that they could kill me. I went wild. I started screaming for Soda, Darry , anyone. Someone put his hand over my mouth, and I bit it as hard as I could, tasting the blood running through my teeth. I heard a muttered curse and got slugged again, and they were stuffing a handkerchief in my mouth. One of them kept saying "Shut him up, for Pete's sake, shut him up!""

"Keep shouting Pony, we're coming." Two-Bit said, ignoring the looks of concern that the other members of the gang were giving him.

"Then there were shouts and the pounding of feet, and the Socs jumped up and left me lying there, gasping. I lay there and wondered what in the world was happening—people were jumping over me and running by me and I was too dazed to figure it out."

"I remember seeing him just lying there, and was so afraid they'd hurt him badly. Wanted to rip their heads off, still do as a matter of fact." Soda said, mentally writing down the physical descriptions of each of the Socs.

"Then someone had me under the armpits and was hauling me to my feet. It was Darry. "Are you all right, Ponyboy?" He was shaking me and I wished he'd stop. I was dizzy enough anyway. I could tell it was Darry though—partly because of the voice and partly because Darry's always rough with me without meaning to be."

"Am I really?"

"Yay Darry's here. Superman will save the day."

"Shut up Two-Bit."

""I'm okay. Quit shaking me Darry. I'm okay." He stopped instantly. "I'm sorry." He wasn't really. Darry isn't ever sorry for anything he does. It seems funny that he should look just exactly like my father and act exactly the opposite from him."

"I don't know if I've been complemented or insulted." Darry said, attempting to disguise the sadness in his voice with humor. It hadn't worked; Soda still noticed it.

"My father was only forty when he died and he looked twenty-five and a lot of people thought Darry and Dad were brothers instead of father and son. But they only looked alike—my father was never rough with anyone without meaning to be."

"Maybe it's Pony's imagination taking off with him again? Remember Dar, this was two years ago." Soda said, trying to raise his elder brother's spirits.

"Darry is six-feet-two, and broad-shouldered and muscular. He has dark-brown hair that kicks out it the front and a slight cowlick in the back—just like Dad's—but Darry's eyes are his own. He's got eyes that are like two pieces of pale blue-green ice."

"What are you idiots doing?" Darry almost yelled, when he realized how close the gang was to his face.

"Just seeing if Pony's description did you justice Superman."

"They've got a determined set to them just like the rest of him. He looks older than twenty—tough, cool and smart. He would be real handsome if his eyes weren't so cold. He doesn't understand anything that is not plain hard fact. But he uses his head."

"Not all the time," Darry muttered, remembering the rumble two years ago, and how he should have prevented Pony from fighting.

"I sat down again, rubbing my cheek where I'd been slugged the most. Darry jammed his fists into his pockets. "They didn't hurt you too bad, did they?" They did. I was smarting and aching and my chest was sore and I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I wanted to start bawling, but you just don't say that to Darry."

"Of course you say that to Darry, who else would you tell it to?" Steve and Soda almost yelled at the book, seeing as Darry was too depressed by the way his youngest brother used to think about him.

""I'm okay." Sodapop came loping back. By then I had figured that all the noise I had heard was the gang coming to rescue me. He dropped down beside me, examining my head."

"No, it was the local herd of elephants," Two-Bit said, the sarcasm audible. From behind the door, Soda sword he heard a chuckle.

""You got cut up a little, huh, Ponyboy?" I only looked at him blankly. "I did?" He pulled out a handkerchief, wet the end of it with his tongue and pressed it gently against the side of my head. "You're bleeding like a stuck pig." "I am?" "Look!" he showed me the handkerchief, reddened as if by magic. "Did they pull a blade on you?" I remembered the voice: "Need a haircut, greaser?" The blade must have slipped while he was trying to shut me up. "Yeah.""

"Heh, Pony's slow after getting jumped. It's kind of funny." Soda snorted. Hey now that the danger was passed, and he knew that his kid brother was okay, he could relax.

"Soda is handsomer than anyone else I know. Not like Darry—Soda's movie-star kind of handsome, the kind that people stop on the street to watch go by. He's not as tall as Darry, and he's a little slimmer, but he has a finely drawn, sensitive face that somehow manages to reckless and thoughtful at the same time. He's got dark-gold hair that he combs back—long and silky and straight—and in the summer the sun bleaches it to a shining wheat-gold. His eyes are dark brown—lively, dancing, recklessly laughing eyes that can be gentle and sympathetic one moment and blazing with anger the next. He has Dad's eyes, but Soda's one of a kind. He can get drunk in a drag race or dancing without ever getting near alcohol. In our neighborhood, it's rare to find a kid who doesn't drink once in awhile. But Soda never touches a drop—he doesn't need to. He gets drunk on plain living. And he understands everybody."

"Anyone else think Pony's stalking Soda?" Two-Bit asked, and was met with three pillows thrown at him.

"He's my brother, you idiot."

"He looked at me more closely. I looked away hurriedly, because, if you want to know the truth, I was starting to bawl. I knew I was a white as I felt and I was shaking like a leaf. Soda just put his hand on my shoulder. "Easy Ponyboy. They ain't gonna hurt you no more." "I know," I said, but the ground started to blur and I felt hot tears running down my cheeks. I brushed them away impatiently. "I'm just a little spooked, that's all." I drew in a quivering breath and quit crying. You just don't cry in front of Darry. Not unless you're hurt like Johnny had been the day we found him in the vacant lot. Compared to Johnny, I wasn't hurt at all."

"Who was the idiot who convinced him it wasn't okay for him to cry in front of me?" Darry asked, half angry that Pony still might have it in his head that it wasn't okay to cry in front of him, and half depressed that his youngest brother thought so low about him.

"That might have been Dally." Steve mumbled, just audible enough to make the mood go into a downswing.

"Let's continue on with the book. I wonder if Pony wants to be an author, he's held my attention for the past five minutes, and that's saying something." Two-Bit said quickly.

"Soda rubbed my hair. "You're an okay kid, Pony." I had to grin at him—Soda can make you grin no matter what. I guess it's because he's always grinning so much himself. "You're crazy, Soda, out of your mind." Darry looked as if he'd like to knock our heads together."

"Like he does now," said Ponyboy from the doorway to his room. They all looked at him in shock and awe. Soda patted the seat next to him, but Pony shook his head and said "No way, Soda. I'm the only one who knows the whole thing, and there are some pretty wild tales in there. I want to get through this without suffocation." So he pulled up a chair and sat as close to the group as he could, but far enough away as to make a fast getaway.

""You're both nuts." Soda merely cocked one eyebrow, a trick he'd picked up from Two-Bit. "It seems to run in this family." Darry stared at him for a second, then cracked a grin. Soda isn't afraid of him like everyone else, and enjoys teasing him. I'd just as soon tease a full-grown grizzly; but for some reason, Darry seems to like being teased by Soda."

A pause broke out in the room, and then all the greasers broke out into galls of laughter.

"Our gang had chased the Socs to their car and heaved rocks at them. They came running toward us now—four lean hard guys. They were all tough as nails and looked it. I had grown up with them, and they accepted me, even though I was younger, because I was Darry and Soda's kid brother and I kept my mouth shut good."

"No, it's because you come in handy in a fight." Two-Bit said. Pony just nodded, knowing lingering on any subject in this chapter (or any chapter for that matter) would just cause him to run back into his room.

"Steve Randle was seventeen, tall and lean, with thick greasy hair he kept combed in complicated swirls. He was cocky, smart and Soda's best buddy since grade school. Steve's specialty was cars. He could lift a hubcap quicker and more quietly than anyone in the neighborhood, but he also knew cars upside-down and backward, and he could drive anything on wheels. He and Soda worked at the same gas station—Steve part time and Soda full time—and their station got more customers than any other. Whether that was because Steve was so good with cars or because Soda attracted girls like honey draws flies, I couldn't tell you."

"Am I the only one who wonders how he notices these things?" Soda asked, completely serious for the first time in his life. Pony just glared at him, and as he was now two years older than the last time he'd tried, it worked in scaring the comments out of Two-Bit. Steve looked over Darry's shoulder and paled. He managed to make eye contact with Pony and gestured over to Soda. They both nodded and snuck out of the room, Pony out back to grab a smoke and Steve in the bathroom with the door locked.

"I liked Steve only because he was Soda's best friend. He didn't like me—he thought I was a tagalong and a kid; Soda always took me with them when they went places if they weren't taking the girls, and that bugged Steve. It wasn't my fault; Soda always asked me, I didn't ask him. Soda doesn't think I'm a kid."

"What- I mean- huh?" Soda said, looking defeated. Darry looked shocked (that Soda didn't know, I mean even he knew that Pony and Steve hated each other's guts.) and Two-Bit was looking around for the two missing greasers.

"Hey, what happened to Steve and Pony?"

The rest of the gang (AKA Darry and Soda) looked around and saw that the two greasers were not in the room. The reading had to be paused for a few seconds to hunt down the elusive team, but they were found and order was restored.

"Two-Bit Matthews was the oldest of the gang and the wisecracker of the bunch. He was about six feet tall, stocky in build, and very proud of long rusty-colored sideburns. He had grey eyes and a wide grin, and he couldn't stop making funny remarks to save his life. You couldn't shut up that guy; he always had to get his two-bits worth in. Hence his name. Even his teachers forgot his real name was Keith, and we hardly remembered he had one. Life was one big joke for Two-Bit. He was famous for shoplifting and his black=handled switchblade (which he couldn't have acquired without his first talent) and he was always smarting off to the cops. He really couldn't help it. Everything he said was just irresistibly funny that he had to let the police in on it to brighten up their dull lives. (That's the way he explained it to me.) He liked fights, blonds, and for some unfathomable reason, school. He was still a junior at 18 and a half and he never learned anything. He just went for kicks. I liked him real well because he kept us laughing at ourselves as well as at other things. He reminded me of Will Rogers—maybe it was the grin."

"Yay, It's me!"

No one had to even look to find out who was the idiot who said that.

"If I had to pick the real character of the gang, it would be Dallas Winston—Dally. I used to like to draw him when he was in a dangerous mood, for then I could get his personality down in a few lines. He had an elfish face, with high cheekbones and a pointed chin, small sharp animal teeth and ears like a lynx. His hair was almost white it was so blond, and he didn't like haircuts or hair oil either, so it just fell over his forehead in wisps and kicked out in the back in tuffs and curled behind his ears and around the nape of his neck. His eyes were blue,, blazing ice, cold with a hatred of the whole world. Dally had spent three years on the wild side of New York and had been arrested at the age of ten. He was tougher than the rest of us—tougher, colder, meaner. The shade of difference that separates a greaser from a hood wasn't present in Dally. He was as wild as the boys in the downtown outfits, like Tim Sheppard's gang. In New York, Dally blew off steam in gang fights, but here, organized gangs are rarities—there are just small bunches of friends who stick together and the warfare is between the social classes. A rumble, when it's called, is usually born of a grudge fight, and the opponents just happen to bring their friends along. Oh, there are a few named gangs around, like the River Kings and the Tiber Street Tigers, but here in the Southwest there's no gang rivalry. So Dally, even though he could get into a good fight sometimes, had no specific thing to hate. No rival gang. Only Socs. And you can't win against them no matter how hard you try, because they've got all the breaks and even whipping them isn't going to change that fact. Maybe that was why Dallas was so bitter. He had quite a reputation. They have a file on him down at the police station. He had peen arrested, he got drunk, he rode in rodeos, lied, cheated, stole, rolled drunks, jumped small kids—he did everything. I didn't like him, but he was smart and you had to respect him."

Darry took a pause as the group got used to the mention of Dally. Soda looked at Pony, who was sitting right between Steve and Two-Bit (hey, they were the only two who weren't insane or would hug him to death in Pony's eyes) and asked, "Do you still have that drawing?"

"Yeah, after this chapter I'll go and get it."

"Johnny Cade was last and least. If you can't picture a little dark puppy that has been kicked too many times and is lost in a crowd of strangers, you'll have Johnny. He was the youngest, next to me, smaller than the rest, with a slight build. He had big black eyes in a dark tanned face; his hair was jet-black and heavily greased and combed to the side, but it was so long that it fell to in shaggy bangs across his forehead. He had a nervous, suspicious look in his eyes, and that beating he got from the Socs didn't help matters. He was the gang's pet, everyone's kid brother. His father was always beating him up, and his mother ignored him, except when she was hacked off at something, and then you could hear her yelling at him clear down at our house. I think he hated that worse than getting whipped. He would have run away a million times if we hadn't been there. If it hadn't been for the gang, Johnny would never have known what love and affection are."

Another pause was taken out of respect for the dead boy they had all grown to love as a full member of the gang.

"I wiped my eyes hurriedly. "Didya catch 'em?" "Nup. They got away this time, the dirty…" Two-Bit went on cheerfully, calling the Socs every name he could think or make up. "The kid's okay?" "I'm okay." I tried to think of something to say. I'm usually pretty quiet around people, even the gang. I changed the subject. "I didn't know that you were out of the cooler yet. Dally." "Good behavior. Got off early.""

"Since when would Dally ever get off on good behavior?" Steve asked. It was getting easier now to talk about them as they were constantly getting mentioned in Pony's paper.

"Dallas lit a cigarette and handed it to Johnny. Everyone sat down to have a smoke and relax. A smoke always lessens the tension. I had quit trembling and my color was back. The cigarette was calming me down. Two-Bit cocked an eyebrow. "Nice-lookin' bruise you got there, kid." I touched my cheek gingerly. "Really?" Two-Bit nodded sagely. "Nice cut too. Makes you look tough." Tough and tuff are two different words. Tough is the same as rough; tuff means cool, sharp—like a tuff-looking Mustang or a tuff record. In our neighborhood both are compliments."

"Two-Bit, you are an idiot!" four voices cried out.

"Thank you, I try."

"Steve flicked his ashes at me. "What were you doin', walkin' by your lonesome?" Leave it to good old Steve to bring up something like that. "I was walking home from the movies. I didn't think…" "You don't ever think," Darry broke in, "not at home or anywhere when it counts. You must think at school, with all those good grades you bring home, and you've always got your nose in a book, but do you ever use you head for common sense? No sirree, bub. And if you did have to go by yourself, you should have carried a blade.""

"Sorry about that, Pony." Darry said, grinning sheepishly. He had remembered when their dad had scolded him right in front of the gang and it felt so embarrassing. To be scolded by your brother would have to be 10 times worse.

"I just stared at the hole in the toe of my tennis shoe. Me and Darry just didn't dig each other. I never could please him. He would have hollered at me for carrying a blade if I had carried one. If I brought home B's, he wanted A's, and if I got A's, he wanted to make sure they stayed A's. If I was playing football, I should be in studying, and if I was reading, I should be out playing football. He never hollered at Sodapop—not even when Soda dropped out of school or got tickets for speeding. He just hollered at me."

"Bet that was confusing, huh?" Darry said, a bit saddened at how he never noticed how their relationship (which had been just as strong as the one between him and Soda) had deteriorated.

"Just a little." Pony said, grinning from ear to ear. It was getting a little tiring to listen to Darry apologize for stuff that happened over two years ago.

"Soda was glaring at him. "Leave my kid brother alone, you hear? It ain't his fault he likes to go to the movies and it ain't his fault the Socs like to jump us, and if he had been carrying a blade it would have been a good excuse to cut him to ribbons." Soda always takes up for me."

"Of course I take up for you, you're my kid brother." Soda said. He had felt hurt and a little betrayed that Pony was sitting by Steve, but he quickly got over it as the book continued.

"Darry said impatiently, "When I want my kid brother to tell me what to do with my other kid brother, I'll ask you – kid brother.""

"Nice one Dar."

"Superman strikes again."

"Will you idiots shut up, and let me finish the chapter!"

"But he laid off me. He always does when Sodapop tells him to. Most of the time. "Next time get one of us to go with you Ponyboy." Two-Bit said. "Any of us will.""

"The question being, would you sit through all of it?" Pony said with such a innocent look that no one knew if he was teasing Two-Bit or not.

""Speaking of movies"—Dally yawned, flipping away his cigarette butt—"I'm walkin' over to the Nightly Double tomorrow night. Anybody want to come and hunt some action?" Steve shook his head. "Me and Soda are pickin' up Evie and Sandy for the game." He didn't need to look at me the way he did right then. I wasn't going to ask if I could come. I'd never tell Soda, because he really likes Steve a lot, but sometimes I can't stand Steve Randle. I mean it. Sometimes I hate him."

"Do you still feel that way about each other?" Soda had to ask. He wasn't going to sit by as his little brother and best friend went around hating each other. They should leave that for the Socs.

"Nah. I've learned to tolerate old shrimpy over here." Steve said, grabbing Pony and putting him in a headlock.

"And I've learned not to sit next to this bozo again. Take a bath or something Steve, you reek." Pony said, slapping Steve on the back of the head to force him to let go, so he could fix his hair. "Yeah, Soda. I can tolerate Steve," he replied when Soda gave him a disappointed look (which looked as if he was constipated.)

"Darry sighed, just like I knew he would. Darry never had time to do anything anymore. "I'm working tomorrow night." Dally looked at the rest of us. "How about y'all? Two-Bit? Johnnycake, you and Pony wanta come?" "Me and Johnny'll come," I said. I knew Johnny wouldn't open his mouth unless he was forced to. "Okay, Darry?" "Yeah, since it ain't a school night." Darry was real good about letting me go places on the weekends. On school nights I could hardly leave the house. "I was plannin' on getting boozed up tomorrow night," Two-Bit said. "If I don't, I'll walk over and find y'all.""

"Two-Bit, have you ever gone a day without drinking?" Darry said in exasperation.

"Steve was looking at Dally's hand. His ring, which he had rolled a drunk senior to get, was back on his finger. "You break up with Sylvia again?" "Yeah, and this time it's for good. That little broad was two-timin' me again while I was in jail." I thought of Sylvia and Evie and Sandy and Two-Bit's many blondes. They were the only kind of girls that would look at us, I thought. Tough, loud girls who wore too much eye makeup and giggled and swore too much. I liked Soda's girl Sandy just fine, though. Her hair was natural blond and her laugh was soft, like her china-blue eyes. She didn't have a real good home or anything and was our kind – greaser—but she was a real nice girl."

"She was nice, nice enough to cheat on me," Soda growled out. Even after two years, he never really got over that fact. He loved her.

"Still lots of times I wondered what other girls were like. The girls who were bright-eyed and had their dresses a decent length and acted as if they'd like to spit on us if given the chance. Some were afraid of us, and remembering Dallas Winston, I didn't blame them. But most looked at us like we were dirt—gave us the same kind of look that the Socs did when they came by in their Mustangs and Corvairs and yelled "Grease!" at us. I wondered about them."

"Pony, maybe you need to see someone. I mean, if you're thinking about Socs…"

"Shut up, Two-Bit. Just let Darry read." Pony said, fighting the urge to turn as red as a tomato.

"The girls, I mean… Did they cry when their boys were arrested, like Evie did when Steve got hauled in, or did they run out on them the way Sylvia did Dallas? But maybe their boys didn't get arrested or beaten up or busted up in rodeos."

"How is it I'm still amazed at how much the kid notices?" Steve murmured in Two-Bit's ear. For a kid who didn't use his head, Pony could notice a bunch of stuff.

"I was still thinking about it while I was doing my homework that night. I had to read Great Expectations for English, and that kid Pip, he reminded me of us—the way he felt marked lousy because he wasn't a gentleman or anything and the way that girl kept looking down on him."

"Only Pony could relate his life to a character in a book." Soda said, laughing his head off.

Darry shook his head. "You know how lucky you are that wasn't a school night? I bet none of that sunk in."

"Actually, I remembered everything. Enough to get an A- on the quiz I had to make up when I got back."

"That happened to me once. One time in biology I had to dissect a worm and the razor wouldn't cut, so I used my switchblade. The minute I flicked it out—I forgot what I was doing or I would never have done it—this girl right beside me kind of gasped and said "They are right. You are a hood." That didn't make me feel so hot. There were a lot of Socs in that class—I get put into A classes because I'm supposed to be smart—and most of them thought it was pretty funny. I didn't though. She was a cute girl. She looked real good in yellow."

"How the hell did you get your blade in school?" Steve said in shock. "The staff searches me everyday!"

"I don't go around and threaten Socs with my blade, Steve"

"So, Pony," Soda said, smirking. "This girl looked real good in yellow, did she?"

"So much for not having an interest in girls!" Two-Bit almost fell onto the floor, he was laughing so hard.

Only Darry noticed how Pony's glare seemed to grow with each passing moment ( not to mention his blush) and so he resumed reading.

"We deserve a lot of our trouble, I thought. Dallas deserves everything he gets, and should get worse, if you want the truth. And Two-Bit—he doesn't really want or need half the things he swipes from stores. He just thinks it's fun to swipe everything that isn't nailed down. I can understand why Sodapop and Steve get into drag races and fights so much, though—both of them have too much energy, too much feeling, with no way to blow it off."

"Kid, what is it I'm always telling you?" Two-Bit said, trying to look like he was an intelligent human being whose brain wasn't completely mashed by alcohol.

"I'm an idiot, Ponyboy?" Pony said, in a voice that sounded just like Two-Bit's it was scary. Darry had to hold in his laughter, but when he saw Soda crack up, he just let out a big laugh.

"I'm glad I can be amusing!"

The laughter went on for a few minutes until Darry could calm down and scare the others into at least acting like mature teens and adults.

""Rub harder, Soda," I heard Darry mumbling. "You're gonna put me to sleep." I looked through the door. Sodapop was giving Darry a back-rub. Darry is always pulling muscles; he roofs houses and he's always trying to carry two bundles of roofing up the ladder. I knew Soda would put him to sleep, because Soda can put about anyone out when he sets his head to it. He thought Darry worked too hard anyway. I did, too."

"Thanks, little man." Darry leaned over and whispered in Pony's ear.

"Darry didn't deserve to work like an old man when he was only twenty. He had been a real popular guy in school; he was captain of the football team and he had been voted Boy of the Year. But we just didn't have the money for him to go to college, even with the athletic scholarship he won. And now he didn't have time between jobs to even think about college. So he never went anywhere and never did anything anymore, except work out at gyms and go skiing with some old friends of his sometimes."

Darry was shocked. He had begun to think that his youngest brother hated him. Now, it seemed that he could empathize with him or something.

"I rubbed my cheek where it had turned purple. I had looked in the mirror, and it did make me look tough. But Darry had made me put a Band-Aid on the cut. I remembered how awful Johnny had looked when he got beaten up. I had just as much right to use the streets as the Socs did and Johnny had never hurt them. Why did the Socs hate us so much? We left them alone. I nearly went to sleep over my homework trying to figure it out."

"Pony, if you keep asking hard questions like that, you'll get a permanent headache." Soda said, grinning from ear to ear. He'd always wondered what his little brother had been thinking about that night.

"Sodapop, who had jumped into bed by this time, yelled sleepily for me to turn off the light and get to bed. When I finished the chapter I was on, I did. Lying beside Soda, staring at the wall, I kept remembering the faces of the Socs as they surrounded me, that blue madras shirt the blond was wearing, and I could still hear a thick voice: "Need a haircut, greaser?" I shivered. "You cold, Ponyboy?" "A little," I lied."

"Why is it that I go from Soda to Sodapop?"

"I have no idea, this was written two years ago."

Darry shook his head at his brothers' banter. It seemed some things never changed, even after two years.

"Soda threw one arm over my neck. He mumbled something drowsily. "Listen, kiddo, when Darry hollers at you… he don't mean nothin'. He's just got more worries than somebody his age ought to. Don't take him serious… you dig Pony? Don't let him bug you. He's really proud of you 'cause you're so brainy. It's just because you're the baby—I mean, he loves you a lot. Savvy?" "Sure," I said, trying for Soda's sake to keep the sarcasm out of my voice."

"You did realize that I've known you for the past fourteen years of your life? I can tell when you're trying to be sarcastic or trying to hold it back."

Pony groaned.

"By the way, Soda." Darry said, smirking. "You suck at pep talks."

""Soda?" "Yeah?" "How come you dropped out?" I never have gotten over that. I could hardly stand it when he left school. "Cause I'm dumb. The only things I was passing anyways were auto mechanics and gym.""

"You're not dumb, Soda." Darry and Pony said at the exact same time. They looked at each other in shock.

"We need to stop doing that." Two-Bit said. "First Darry and Soda, now Darry and Pony, it's getting creepy."

""You're not dumb." "Yeah, I am. Shut up and I'll tell you something. Don't tell Darry, though." "Okay." "I think I'm going to marry Sandy. After she gets out of school and I get a better job and everything. I might wait till you get out of school, though. So I can still help Darry with the bill and stuff." "Tuff enough. Wait till I get out, though, so you can keep Darry off my back." "Don't be like that, kid. I told you he don't mean half of what he says…""

"Again, Soda," Darry said, smirking. "Don't give a lecture when you're half asleep."

""You in love with Sandy? What's it like?" "Hhhmmm." He sighed happily. "It's real nice." In a moment his breathing was light and regular. I turned my head to look at him and in the moonlight he looked like some Greek god come to earth. I wondered how he could stand being so handsome."

"It is hard, but I try."

"Oh, shut up Greek god." Steve said and threw a pillow at Soda, who had puffed his chest out in mock superiority.

"Then I sighed. I didn't quite get what he meant about Darry. Darry thought I was just another mouth to feed and somebody to holler at. Darry love me? I thought of those hard, pale eyes. Soda was wrong for once, I thought. Darry doesn't love anyone or anything, except maybe Soda. I didn't hardly think of him as being human. I don't care, I lied to myself, I don't care about him either. Soda's enough, and I'd have him until I got out of school. I don't care about Darry. But I was still lying and I knew it. I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me. "

"That's the end of the chapter." Darry said, and put the book down. "Who wants to read next?"

Steve said, "I'll read next, I've got a feeling I won't be in this chapter."

TBC

A/N: Yay, it's finally done. Chapter one. Please don't kill me, and please PM me with comment ideas, if you know some areas in chapter two that the characters would comment. By the way, I got Two-Bit's age wrong in the first chapter. He would be 20, not 18.

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